Dear Senator Durenberger:
When Congressional oversight of the Intelligence Community is conducted off-the-cuff through the news media and involves the repeated compromise of sensitive intelligence sources and methods, not to mention unsubstantiated appraisals of performance, it is time to acknowledge that the process has gone seriously awry.
Your remarks to the press as cited in The Washington Post and other newspapers on 14 November are the most recent example. I am dismayed by your comments regarding our alleged "failure to understand the Soviet Union," particularly in light of the fact that this is the first time you have expressed such concern over our work in this area. Recently the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board examined intelligence support to arms control. In his report, Henry Kissinger, who has led this effort, stated, "these analyses are far better than anything I saw on the subject when I was in government."
Your alleged comments that we do not consider in longer range evaluations brewing crises such as the Philippines, the rise of Shiite Muslim fundamentalism or the energy problem are tragically wrong. These are all areas where the Intelligence Community has produced an enormous number of long range studies over the last six years or more and where we have been far out in front. Your remarks betray a lack of familiarity with the many intelligence studies in the SSCI vault.
Your views on the quality of our work in all of these areas are directly contradicted by statements you and a number of other members of the Committee have made privately about the high quality of our work generally and on these problems in particular. I can only wonder at the contrast between what you say to us privately and what you say to the news media.
Not only have we not heard such criticism from you before, but such hearings as the SSCI has held on these issues certainly would not substantiate your remarks. Neither I nor my associates are aware of specific criticism from the Committee of work that we have done in these areas.
One of the reasons I have supported your request for a national intelligence strategy is that I want to codify for the committee in one document the long range planning papers from which we now work and have been for years. I hope this will focus the oversight committees on the substantive and longer range challenges posed to the Intelligence Community rather than events in the current day headlines. This process has, of course, been briefed to the Committee piecemeal over the years and maybe there is not a full understanding of it.
Your comments are disturbing not only because they are unfounded, so different from what you ad members of the Committee tell us privately, and shared with the news media instead of with us but, more importantly, because of their disheartening impact on our officers overseas and at home. What are they to think when the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee offhandedly, publicly and inaccurately disparages their work?
I have heard from your staff today and on previous occasions that you didn't really say what you were quoted as saying. That's not the point. Public discussion of sensitive information and views revealed in a closed session of an oversight committee is always damaging and inadvisable.
As we have discussed many times, if the oversight process is to work at all it cannot do so on the front pages of American newspapers. The cost in compromise of sources, damaged morale, and the effect on our overall capabilities is simply too high.
We have some recommendations which we are prepared to present to your Committee in closed session.
WILLIAM J. CASEY
Director of Central Intelligence